The Not-So-Minor Detail

Magna Library

Many forms of lighting working together to illumine the Magna Library

Louis Khan once said, “We only know the world as it is evoked by light.” This strange, ephemeral substance touches and shapes every part of our physical world. While we cannot fully explain it, as Architects we can, and must, harness it. Such harnessing can look like a lot of things from day-lighting to task lighting to background lighting. Considered below are seven examples of the ways we use light, helpfully ordered in the acronym “D.E.T.A.I.L.S.”:

D – Decorative (Decorative lighting is secondary to overall lighting and adds accent the architecture)

decorative- snow college

Decorative lighting at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah

E – Exterior (Exterior lighting obviously concerns the exterior of a building, and often deals with the character and safety of a building at night)

exterior- afton readiness center

Exterior lighting at the Afton Readiness Center in Afton, Wyoming

T – Task (Task lighting focuses on special and localized uses within a building)

task- washington library

Task lighting at the Washington Library in Southern Utah

A – Architectural (Architectural lighting deals with molding space- coves, wall washes, etc.)

architectural- st george

Architectural lighting at the St. George Public Library in St. George, Utah

I – Interior (Interior lighting covers general lighting of indoor spaces, needed for everyday use)

interior- magna senior center

Interior lighting at the Magna Senior Center in Magna, Utah

L – Landscape (Landscape lighting surrounds a building, focusing on paths, trees, etc.)

landscape- south jordan library

Landscape lighting at the plaza of the South Jordan Library

S – Specialty (Specialty lighting serves to highlight unique components of a space such as artwork)

specialty- usu college of agriculture

Specialty lighting at Utah State University’s College of Agriculture in Logan, Utah

Light is the framework in which architecture exists, and details are the building blocks which create it. The two are intrinsically linked, and reside at the heart of good design.

Special thanks to VBFA’s Senior Lighting Designer, David Schad, for sharing the “D.E.T.A.I.L.S.” Concept. Used by Permission (


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